The Future of Vice President Joe Biden


Sarah Palin’s resignation has led many of her supporters to criticize the way she has been treated by the media. Some have gone further by suggesting some of her boneheaded statements (“You can see Russia from land here in Alaska”) were the object of exaggerated ridicule. Meanwhile, the more controversial statements of her vice-presidential rival, Joe Biden, were never met with the same level of derision as those of Palin. Some bloggers have alluded to Biden’s controversial and potentially damaging late campaign comment that Obama would be tested early on national security.

Since then, Biden hasn’t shed his loose-lips habits of the past. Just recently, he claimed the Obama Administration “misread the economy” it inherited. In the same interview, Biden acknowledged Israel’s sovereign right to attack Iran if it felt its security was at stake. Barack Obama has had to adjust these messages, providing more fodder to those who feel Biden was given a free pass in the last presidential election. It may have been a deliberate ‘good cop, bad cop’ play by the administration, but conservative pundits are not letting it pass.

Still, when one revisits the interviews Palin gave to CBS’s Katie Couric and ABC’s Charlie Gibson, it is easy to conclude they were surreal and downright scary. The fact that Palin was a heartbeat away from a job that would otherwise have been held by a 72 year-old cancer survivor is even more disconcerting. Obama’s choice of Biden, on the other hand, was effective to counter the suspicions about Obama’s scant political experience at the national and international levels. There are many Democrats who cringe at the sight of Biden on Sunday talk shows. But the short answer is there is no compelling evidence that would lead an astute observer to conclude that Biden is in trouble. Biden may lack discipline and some of his views may be questionable, but he still comes across as experienced and knowledgeable.

Joe Biden was not only chosen for his qualifications, but also because he would not necessarily toe the administration line. Obama knew that. He expected Biden to challenge him and be the last man in the room when it came time to make the big decision. The chemistry between the two men seems easy and the team-building spirit of the vice president has contributed to make this “team of rivals” (Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor Jim Jones, and Defense Secretary Bob Gates) functional and cohesive. That Biden sometimes strays from the Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod code of discipline is actually refreshing. Joe is no yes-man. His Irish touch and working-class background contrasts well with the cool, intellectual persona of the president and actually contributes to providing a more human face to the administration. I am certain Obama has no regrets about his choice.

That said, Obama’s agenda is mixture of medium- and long-term goals. When Obama was asked two weeks ago about his reserved response to events in Iran, the president responded that while the press may be on a 24-hour cycle, he is not. Similarly, the Constitution may have presidential term limits, but the “change we can believe in” does not. The presidency is not a prize to relinquish after just two terms. Of course, Obama’s impressive and activist start is no guarantee of success and reelection in 2012. But Democrats, observing the continuing dysfunction and disarray inside the Republican party, are dreaming of political dominance similar to the post-Roosevelt era, which brought them a 40-plus-year reign over Congress. Only in 1952 did Republicans break the trend, only to see Democrats recapture Congress two years later.

Remember that George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney as vice-president and, soon after, Cheney said he did not intend to run for president when the post re-opened. This led many to conclude that Cheney’s only real interest was in the country and not personal ambition. This did not prove to be the case, but the lack of an obvious GOP successor to Bush gave the impression that no one was in charge when Bush entered his lame-duck phase and that there was no such candidate available. I admit Bush 43 was most unpopular, but contrast the end of Reagan’s two terms and those of Clinton with that of ‘W’ and no party will willingly opt for the latter’s path. Joe Biden will be 73 years old in 2016 and while he has not ruled out a future run for the presidency, he would be older than John McCain was in 2008. It is therefore possible that, for the sake of continuity and the country’s long term prospects, in spite Biden’s generally positive influence over the course of his first term, Obama will reconsider his running mate in 2012.


The Future of Vice President Joe Biden

  1. I hope you are right . This would be Hillary`s chance and she would be President 2016 !

  2. Biden may lack discipline and some of his views may be questionable, but he still comes across as experienced and knowledgeable.

    Holy crap, John. What Joe Biden are you watching?

    Besides what you already mentioned, this is the guy who let slip the whereabouts of his own secure location in the event of attack. He urged people not to take public transportation because of swine flu. He didn't know what the largest stimulus project in the country was for, and he's the guy in charge of implementing the stimulus package. When asked questions about it, he says its above his pay grade.

    This isn't being undisciplined, or not being a yes-man, or having questionable views. This is not having a freaking clue what you're doing. Biden is every bit the disaster that Palin was forecast to be. How on earth can you write off accidently giving a green light to Israel to attack Iran, while being terrified of Palin because she says Russia is visible from land? What more dangerous thing than this could Palin have done???

    • Look at what Biden says – they're generally faux-pas in the political realm, but he's not wrong. The Obama administration did misread the economy, or at least presented overly optimistic figures. Isreal does have the right to declare war and attack Iran if it feels its security is under significant threat. That's not a green light for Isreal to do whatever it wants, it's saying in a very blunt manner that Isreal ultimately has the right to defend itself if there is a real threat, which is true whether Joe Biden says it or not. Politicians aren't supposed to say these things, but that doesn't make them any less true.

      I'm going to steal another poster's line – Joe Biden doesn't think before he speaks and thus says honest, often factual things in an untailored (and thus often inappropriate) manner. Sarah Palin thinks before she speaks and says things that are irrelevant, misleading, dodging or flat out false. Biden's a nightmare when he's in front of a camera, Palin's a nightmare whether the cameras are on or not.

  3. Of course, Obama's impressive and activist start

    Ah…I guess that explains where you're coming from.

    FYI, the latest Rasmussen Approval rating for Obama is -5. Strongly approve 32%; Strongly Disapprove, 37%. Overall approval rating is at 52 favourable, 48 unfavourable. Hardly impressive for a guy who is:

    * follwing the most unpopular president in recent memory (possibly ever),
    * supported by the most fawning and subservient media coverage ever bestowed upon a president, and
    * who should still be in his honeymoon period.

    • Rasmussen is always off. Check the average on Real Clear Politics. Reading too much right wing stuff ,john g.

  4. "This led many to conclude that Cheney's only real interest was in the country and not personal ambition. This did not prove to be the case"

    So what was Cheney's personal ambition then? Getting rich off oil trading? Torturing islamists for kicks? Getting his own little kingdom in the Middle East? Just doing Satan's bidding? It certainly wasn't promoting Dick Cheney.

    And for the record, I agree that the Iraq invasion was a mistake. But I still think those behind it were sincere in their (wrong) belief that it was best for the U.S.

    And just to throw more gas on the fire, you CAN see Russia from part of Alaska. It's not really relevant, but it was just Palin's way of underlining the fact that they're neighbours (also barely relevant).

  5. While I agree with the general point the article is making; I would have to dispute your assesment of Palin's statement “You can see Russia from land here in Alaska” as being boneheaded.

    The statement is not boneheaded but absolutely correct.
    In the middle of the Bering Strait (only 85 kms wide) lie the Diomede Islands, owned in part by the U.S. and Russia. Ignaluk (American) is only 4 kms away from Imaqliq (Russian) and they are quite visible to each other. Both the islands have had permanant populations in the past (Ignaluk still does); however during the Cold War, Russia relocated the native inhabitants of Imaqliq and set up a military base.

    Why pundits and bloggers have continued to attack a perfectly factual statement about the visibility of Chukotka, Russia from Alaska, is a mystery to me.

    • The statement itself is true, but its a pretty boneheaded answer in a question relating to foreign policy experience. In her defence, as a governor foreign policy isn't exactly a priority so its perhaps not surprising that foreign policy would not have been her strong suit, but that was a pretty poor attempt to try and claim some legitimacy in foreign policy.

  6. Thanks H2H…I wasn't aware of any allegations of Rasmussen bias in their polling numbers but found some after the post above, though they looked like just the usual partisan complaining about numbers you don't like and weren't backed up by any respectable research.

    I guess if you scrub both Rasmussen and ABC (which both seem like outliers in the opposite directions) the numbers look better but they are most defintely on a downtrend. Gallup at 56% is Obama's lowest approval to date.

  7. When looking at approval ratings, why would someone only look at Likely Voters? Isn't the administration working for all people in the US, not just the voters?

    • You look at approval from likely voters because they are the canary in the coal mine. If the people who actually take the trouble to show up to the polls start to disapprove of the administration then the administration has reason to be worried since fellow partisans in Congress may start holding up or modifying their agenda.

  8. Obama seems careful not to be too overconfident in elections. So I doubt he'll be thinking about 2016 when 2012 is approaching rather than thoroughly protecting the more immediate race. The issue with Biden is not that he disagrees with Obama but are his gaffes harmlessly funny or a real concern? I think Obama might prefer Tim Kaine who has better message discipline and dependable loyalty but first and foremost, Obama would be reluctant to make a switch that made his choice of Biden look like a mistake. Also, if he switched Biden out for someone other than Hillary, it might ruffle people in ways I'd bet Obama will still err on the side of caution about come 2012. Now, there is a chance Obama has gotten acclimated to working with Hillary, and given her higher than Biden popularity, he'd consider such a switch. Yet I don't know if having a presidential candidate as your VP, leaking disputes with you, is any better than a gaffe machine like Joe. Plus the explanations for the move would be a distraction. If Biden fails to improve his message discipline in the next three years- or a health issue- there could be a change, but my bet is Obama-Biden 2012.